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Margaret Fell

Detail from etching by Robert Spence

Margaret Fell or Margaret Fox (1614 – 23 April 1702) was a founder of the Religious Society of Friends. Known popularly as the "mother of Quakerism", she is considered one of the Valiant Sixty early Quaker preachers and missionaries.


  • Life 1
  • In literature 2
  • Further reading 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


She was born Margaret Askew in Dalton-in-Furness, Lancashire, a small town in the north of England. She married Thomas Fell, a barrister, in 1632, and became the lady of Swarthmoor Hall. In 1641, Thomas became a Justice of the Peace for Lancashire, then in 1645 he became a member of Parliament.[1] Thomas Fell ceased to be a member from 1647 to 1649 when he disapproved of Oliver Cromwell's assumption of authority.[2]

The title page of a 1666 edition of Fell's Womens Speaking Justified, in which she advocated for a woman's ability to preach.

In late June 1652,

  • Swarthmoor Hall Website
  • An abstract of the life of Margaret Fell

External links

  1. ^ Ross 1984: 3
  2. ^ Ross 1984: 4
  3. ^ Spence Manuscripts 3. p. 135. 
  4. ^ Ross 1984: 11
  5. ^ Margaret Fell, "Women's Speaking Justified, Quaker Heritage Press Online Texts. Full Text.
  6. ^ Schofield, Mary Anne (1987). ""Women's Speaking Justified" The Feminine Quaker Voice, 1662–1797". Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 6 (1): 61–77.  


  • Claus Bernet (2002). "Margaret Fell". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German) 20. Nordhausen: Bautz. cols. 481–494.  
  • Ross, Isabel (1984). Margaret Fell Mother of Quakerism (2nd ed.). 

Further reading

Margaret Fell's meeting with George Fox and her subsequent conversion are the subject of the first part of the novel The Peaceable Kingdom by Jan de Hartog.

In literature

George Fox spent most of the rest of his life thereafter abroad or in London until his death in 1691, while Margaret Fell spent most of the rest of her life at Swarthmoor. Surviving both husbands by a number of years, she continued to take an active part in the affairs of the Society including the changes in the 1690s following partial legal tolerance of Quakers, when she was well into her eighties. In the last decade of her life, she firmly opposed the effort of her fellow believers in Lancashire to maintain certain traditional Quaker standards of conduct (for example, in matters of dress). She died aged 87.

A plaque at the Society of Friends' burial ground in Sunbrick, Urswick, Margaret Fox's resting place
Having been released by order of the King and council, she married George Fox in 1669. On returning to Lancashire after her marriage, she was again imprisoned for about a year in Lancaster for breaking the

In 1664 Margaret Fell was arrested for failing to take an oath and for allowing Quaker Meetings to be held in her home. She defended herself by saying that "as long as the Lord blessed her with a home, she would worship him in it". She spent six months in Lancaster Gaol, whereafter she was sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of her property. She remained in prison until 1668, during which time she wrote religious pamphlets and epistles. Perhaps her most famous work is "Women's Speaking Justified", a scripture-based argument for women's ministry, and one of the major texts on women's religious leadership in the 17th century.[5] In this short pamphlet, Fell bases her argument for equality of the sexes on the basic premises of Quakerism that is spiritual equality. Her belief was that God created all human beings, therefore both men and women were capable of not only possessing the Inner Light but also the ability to be a prophet.[6]

Because she was one of the few founding members of the Religious Society of Friends who was an established member of the

herself and collected and disbursed funds for those on missions. After her husband's death in 1658, she retained control of Swarthmoor Hall, which remained a meeting place and haven from persecution, even though it was sometimes, in the 1660s, raided by government forces. epistles, and others. She wrote many James Naylor, Richard Hubberthorne activity; she served as an unofficial secretary for the new movement, receiving and forwarding letters from roving missionaries, and occasionally passing along admonitions to them from Fox, Quaker Over the next six years, Swarthmoor Hall became a centre of [4]

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